Welcome to TBW’s first annual WNBA mock draft!
The 2020 WNBA Draft will air on ESPN this Friday night at 7pm EST. Due to social distancing guidelines, teams will log on from afar to make their selections. By night’s end, thirty-six young women, also all remote, will learn of their futures (and destinations) in the league.
After two straight down seasons, the New York Liberty are poised to turn their future around with the first overall pick.
Before all that happens, we wanted to prepare you ahead of Friday with a mock draft of our own. To do so, three of us TBW writers—Derek Helling, Huw Hopkins, and myself—made selections from four randomly assigned teams apiece. Here’s how the team shuffle broke down:
Read below to become more informed on our favorite picks and scenarios, then buckle up for the real thing on Friday night!
We had two draft-day trades go down (both involving the pick-rich Dallas Wings) prior to our actual sections. In tandem, these deals allowed Dallas to move off a few of their picks while also gaining a strong veteran presence:
Trade 1: Dallas moves the No. 9 overall pick and Tayler Hill to Connecticut for Natisha Hiedeman and a 2021 second-round pick
Trade 2: New York sends Tina Charles and Brittany Boyd to Dallas for the No. 7 overall pick and Astou Ndour
These have been posted again below within each related team’s subheading with further explanation and context. With no further deals made, it was time to pick.
Atlanta Dream (HUW)
(4) Chennedy Carter, Texas A&M
(17) Joyner Holmes, Texas
(25) Brittany Brewer, Texas Tech
(27) Kaila Charles, Maryland
After trading for Courtney Williams, Tiffany Hayes, Renee Montgomery and even Blake Dietrick and Maite Cazorla, the last thing the Atlanta Dream need is another guard. It might be that some more moves are yet to be made, but talent should be prioritized more than anything else at the top of the draft—and Chennedy Carter is still one of this year’s standout talents.
The best thing about Carter is that, as one of the few draft-eligible juniors, whatever team drafts her will be getting a player who is slightly younger than most other picks. This could give the Dream a greater opportunity to help shape her into the player she can become.
If she heads to Atlanta, there are plenty of tough, talented, veteran guards who can help Carter’s development, though fighting through a logjam presents both a valuable challenge and a potential hurdle.
— WSLAM (@wslam) March 29, 2020
With Kalani Brown being the only true center on the Atlanta Dream roster, 6’3″ Joyner Holmes doesn’t quite match her height. But she will at least help bulk up the frontcourt alongside Elizabeth Williams and Monique Billings.
Holmes has shown clutch moments both on defense and offense throughout her college career as a Longhorn, and her 13 points and 8.7 rebounds this year proved a level of consistency previously questioned during her college career.
The Dream should be a good fit for her while the guards carry the load early, and Holmes’ minutes could be increased as the season progresses. Eventually, the team could be built around the imposing Brown-Holmes duo up front.
While Kalani Brown showed signs of good play last year, she struggled to display what she is capable of with the LA Sparks’ deep rotation of bigs. She will get the chance to be the lead on a young, exciting squad, but Brittany Brewer will be the back-up battling her for minutes.
Brewer is 6’5 and has clearly had good coaching in the low post. She seals defenders well and has a handful of simple moves that can transfer to the big leagues. She will need to pick up a few more to excel in the WNBA and must show she can keep up with the quicker pace.
Kaila Charles plays some guard but could be pushed out to the wing where she showed that her size and bullishness on the boards put her in a good position at Maryland. The 22-year-old also showed she could score at a rate of 14 points per game.
This late in the draft, the Dream won’t be expecting an elite talent, but Charles offers some young potential that could be nurtured.
Chicago Sky (Derek)
(8) Beatrice Mompremier, Miami
(30) Juicy Landrum, Baylor
(32) Abi Scheid, Northwestern
Beatrice Mompremier could represent the missing piece of this roster that might transform it from playoff team to championship contender. Her size, low-post skills and rebounding represent the dynamics that the Sky need to take them to the next level.
But one of the big questions with the Sky is: What happens if Courtney Vandersloot gets seriously hurt?
Sydney Colson would step into her role but the Sky only have her signed for the coming season, so Juicy Landrum provides a great longterm option for Chicago to fill the role should Vandersloot go down.
Abi Scheid gives Chicago shooting from the perimeter when Vandersloot’s wife, Allie Quigley, is resting. She’s also a local product, having played her collegiate ball at Northwestern.
Connecticut Sun (Myles)
(9) Megan Walker, UConn
(23) Leaonna Odom, Duke
(35) Ae’Rianna Harris, Purdue
The Connecticut Sun held just two picks coming into the draft: Nos. 23 and 35. With Dallas looking to move several of their six selections in our scenario, Connecticut completed a trade (re-posted from above): Dallas trades the No. 9 overall pick and Tayler Hill to Connecticut for Natisha Hiedeman and a 2021 second round pick
The rationale behind this? Dallas unloads Hill’s $117,000 contract while taking on Hiedeman’s team-low $57,000. In exchange for this salary dump comes this year’s late first swaps for a 2021 second rounder (acquired from Minnesota in the Rachel Banham trade).
When UConn’s Megan Walker dropped to No. 9, it was a no-brainer to keep the local forward in town. The junior—named the 2019-2020 AAC Player of the Year—put up 19.7 ppg while pulling down 8.4 rpg. But is she ready yet?
“While she’s clearly talented and will be a solid pro at some point, she could have benefited from another year of seasoning.”
Still, the Sun would be thrilled to have her slip to 9 with many mocks having her as high at 5.
With the 23rd selection, Connecticut snagged Duke’s 6’2 Leaonna Odom, another forward to help mitigate the free agency departure of Shekinna Stricklen. Though Odom compiled 14.3 ppg and 6.2 rpg, she scored 20+ points just as frequently as she put up single figures (six times apiece).
Similarly, Odom’s four double-digit rebounding games were offset by four games in which she secured just two or fewer boards. Her inconsistency, dubbed “the Odom Experience” by Duke University’s Chronicle, led to her draft night fall.
Nonetheless, she’s got double-double potential on any given night.
With the penultimate selection in the draft, the Sun selected Ae’Rianna Harris out of Purdue. Last month, Harris was named to both the First Team All-Big Ten and All-Defensive team. Her 96 blocks (3.0 bpg) were sixth in the country. The 6’1 forward has a high defensive motor that could make some noise in training camp.
Dallas Wings (Derek)
(2) Lauren Cox, Baylor
(5) Tyasha Harris, South Carolina
(15) Kiah Gillespie, Florida State
(21) Kathleen Doyle, Iowa
Six picks, four of which are first-rounders, present a great opportunity to dramatically redefine a roster. Dallas isn’t in a position to actually roster four first-round picks, however.
It currently has two more players than it can carry and is a few thousand dollars over the salary cap. Therefore, the picks are devices that the Wings can use to clear cap space and transform its roster.
They made the following trades (re-posted from above):
Dallas trades the No. 9 overall pick and Tayler Hill to Connecticut for Natisha Hiedeman and a 2021 second round pick
New York trades Tina Charles and Brittany Boyd to Dallas for the #7 overall pick and Astou Ndour
The chalk says that Dallas should go Satou Sabally second overall, and it’s very tempting. Lauren Cox checks one huge box that Sabally doesn’t, however: the local connection. The Flower Mound, Texas native also played her college ball at Baylor.
She is a stellar talent that will fit in perfectly with the roster that Dallas will compose using its trove of picks.
Tyasha Harris will make a stellar complement to Arike Ogunbowale in the Dallas backcourt and enable the Wings to play small.
Acquiring Tina Charles not only helps Cox’s development but augments the Wings’ agenda to add some star power to the roster as well. Sending Astou Ndour back to New York clears cap space for Charles’ remaining season of her current contract and Brittany Boyd’s money comes off the book after this season as well. Swapping Hill for Hiedeman also helps pay for acquiring Charles, at the same time again giving Dallas a player who costs less to release if she doesn’t earn a roster spot.
Kiah Gillespie is a creative and quick post scorer who can stretch the defense, a great add for a Wings team that struggled to shoot the three in 2019. Kathleen Doyle not only fits perfectly into Brian Agler’s defensive system and could give Dallas the true point it lacks but this pick reunites her with Megan Gustafson as well.
Indiana Fever (Myles)
(3) Satou Sabally, Oregon
(14) Crystal Dangerfield, UConn
(28) Jaylyn Agnew, Creighton
The Indiana Fever delegate (Myles) was poised to take Cox, salivating at the idea of McCowan/Cox high-lows and reminiscing about the Baylor pairing of Cox and Kalani Brown in years past. But, when she surprisingly stayed at home in Texas, the Fever happily made a quick pivot to Satou Sabally.
The 6’4 Oregon junior shuffled all draft boards when she declared and is a capable scorer for first-year head coach Marianne Stanley. Sabally put up 16.2 ppg and 6.9 rpg, and she’s a threat to score from anywhere. She hit 37.8 percent of her 3-pointers, making 180 in total over her three-year college career.
One of the team’s biggest needs was point guard help alongside Erica Wheeler. Crystal Dangerfield’s draft day slip to 14 was a fortuitous fall. Despite her size, the 5’5 guard put up 14.9 points and held a 2.27 assist-to-turnover ratio while also converting 41 percent of her shots from deep.
Indiana selected Creighton senior Jaylyn Agnew with the 28th overall pick. The 5’11 forward kept defenses honest with her quick 3-point release and her even quicker first step going right. The former Bluejay averaged 20.8 points per game while solidifying her shooting from the line (95.0 percent in 2020; 80.6 percent in 2017-2019).
Las Vegas Aces (derek)
(33) Minyon Moore, Oregon
With only one pick in the draft, Friday night will not be as exciting as in years past. This draft also ends Las Vegas’ run of three straight first overall picks (Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young).
For a team that is championship-ready and deep, the best available player is the best way to go with the 33rd overall pick. That’s Minyon Moore.
She can score, but her role at Oregon mirrored what the Aces need her to do: create and facilitate. If Moore can prove herself a solid part of Las Vegas’ backcourt rotation, she gives the Aces some flexibility beyond this season, as both Danielle Robinson and Sugar Rodgers are set to become free agents.
Los Angeles Sparks (HUW)
(20) Jocelyn Willoughby, Virginia
(22) Dee Givens, Western Kentucky
(34) Erica Ogwumike, Rice
There aren’t many weak spots on the LA Sparks roster, as head coach Derek Fisher and GM Michael Fischer addressed on a recent press conference call. But the team could improve scoring off the bench at the small forward position.
Jocelyn Willoughby was the tough, emotional leader for Virginia this season. But more than that, she could score.
If Willoughby was on a fast break with defenders back-pedaling? Forget about it: bucket. She’s shifty and strong in the half-court, with the ability to out-muscle smaller players and get the step on bigger opponents. Plus, she shot 41 percent from distance last season.
She will also be able to help out on the boards and can dump it off accurately once the defense has broken down.
On the other end, she has good length and found herself in the passing lines regularly, creating a few highlight reel blocks that were fun to watch.
In a similar vein to the previous L.A. pick, Dee Givens offers a variety of skills, most of all scoring. However, compared to Jocelyn Willoughby, Givens is more of a giver. Bad puns aside, her ability to share the ball should give the Sparks something a little different to look at in training camp.
Givens’ 3-point percentage dipped slightly during her final season at Western Kentucky, but she is still a threat. If the shot is failing, she has a good hesi-dribble and a quick first step with a body to handle banging against bigger players inside.
It will be interesting to see if Givens can step up in the WNBA, but she has transferable talents.
The L.A. Sparks won’t be expecting much at the tail-end of the draft, so why not keep two of your four best players happy and draft their little sister?
Erica Ogwumike lacks height compared to her sisters Nneka and Chiney, but she has clearly picked up a few of their rebounding techniques and nearly averaged double figures despite being just 5’9 on a good day. She is a solid scorer but must improve her playmaking to be a threat.
If she has the family trait of determination, don’t be surprised if she figures it out.
Minnesota Lynx (Huw)
(6) Japreece Dean, UCLA
(16) Kitija Laksa, TTT Riga (formerly South Florida)
The Minnesota Lynx are fully invested in making life as easy as possible for Sylvia Fowles, but the roster is in dire need of someone to get her the ball. Japreece Dean is not the best point guard in the draft but has shown development through her years at UCLA, along with an ability to stay cool and make good decisions.
More than anything, she seems keen to be coached, which will suit Cheryl Reeve.
Dean can also flat-out pass, so unless the Lynx can pick up someone like Alex Bentley, Essence Carson or Tamera Young to start at point guard, a player like Dean might be given the keys early with one instruction: Get the ball to Syl!
Latvian Kitija Laksa might have fallen off the radar after injuring herself partway into her final college year, but she completed her studies and moved back home to Europe to sign with TTT Riga. When she was in South Florida, she played like a woman among girls.
Now that she has a year of professional basketball under her belt? Forget about it.
Laksa is one of the biggest sleepers in the draft and has the potential to make an impact for the Lynx straight away—a team that will need a scorer on the wing to support Fowles down low.
New York Liberty (Myles)
(1) Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon
(7) Ruthy Hebard, Oregon
(13) Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, South Carolina
(26) Kylee Shook, Louisville
The poorest-kept secret in this draft comes, naturally, at the top. Sabrina Ionescu is going to Brooklyn.
Her resume speaks for itself: First player in NCAA history—women and men—to reach the 2k/1k/1k plateau; NCAA record-holder with 26 triple-doubles; counting stats of 17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 9.1 apg in 2020. Best of all, a 3.05 assist-to-turnover ratio. As I wrote for TBW back when New York named Walt Hopkins its head coach, New York’s largest need is a point guard that can cut down on turnovers.
Ionescu solves that issue immediately.
But as is often the case lately with New York sports, nothing good comes without a price. The uncertainty surrounding Tina Charles’ status with the franchise casts a shadow over the Ionescu glow.
Jackie Powell’s article over at High Post Hoops does little to ease that worry:
“Asked about the uncertainty surrounding Charles and if there’s been preparation in place to move on, before Kolb could answer, a Liberty spokesperson interjected to keep the discussion to draft-related questions, one of two times this happened during the interview.”
The Charles era came to an end in our mock as well. Unfortunately, the Liberty have missed their window to get as strong a return for Charles as Phoenix and Dallas did earlier this offseason for DeWanna Bonner and Skylar Diggins-Smith, respectively.
Thus, another swap with the pick-hoarding Dallas Wings took place: New York trades Tina Charles and Brittany Boyd to Dallas for the No. 7 overall pick and Astou Ndour
In our trade scenario, the door closes quickly on the Ndour era in Dallas. With point guard addressed, and a glut of guards rostered already, New York spent the balance of the draft looking upfront.
Although the board still held some higher-ceiling prospects, the Liberty cannot pass up the opportunity to bring Ruthy Hebard east with Ionescu. Their pick-and-roll game is a thing of beauty: Hebard will be the best at that skill that New York has seen since Tyson Chandler, back when the Knicks were competitive nearly a decade ago.
Hebard’s astronomical field goal percentages have climbed each year, and she shot 65.1 percent in her collegiate career. This season, she came in at 68.5 percent, paired with her 17.3 ppg and 9.6 rpg.
This tandem would bring a following of its own to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center.
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— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 13, 2020
New York was quickly on the clock again, and this time, the Liberty selected the best available from their big board. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan—Mad Kiki—is a stretch four that will fit perfectly into the type of 3-point spread offense Coach Hopkins has talked about.
The 6’2 senior out of South Carolina has worked to improve her shooting each season and took another leap forward this year. She shot 51 percent from the field, 44 percent from deep and 84 percent from the line. One of the most talked-about players in the pre-draft process, New York would be thrilled with this selection.
Louisville’s Kylee Shook brings another forward option. The 6’4 senior blocked 86 shots for the Cardinals this season on her way to being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. She looks very much like a volleyball player on the court. (Sure enough, she was in high school!)
She’s got some pick-and-pop to her game as well and could develop into an interesting player.
Phoenix mercury (Huw)
(10) Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State
(18) Haley Gorecki, Duke
(29) Nicki Ekhomu, Florida State
Some might question whether a team like the Phoenix Mercury needs a multi-dimensional guard when they have the likes of all-timer Diana Taurasi wanting to prove she still belongs in the league.
On top of that, Phoenix has Skylar Diggins-Smith running point and the likes of Olivia Epoupa, Bria Hartley, Yvonne Turner and Sophie Cunningham battling for minutes.
But while Mikayla Pivec might take a bit of time to develop, she is a hot-scoring guard who plays bigger than she is. Her outside shooting could improve under the tutelage of Taurasi while perhaps filling some minutes that were left by DeWanna Bonner. In time, Pivec could become the next young face to rise in Phoenix.
— Maria Santora (@MariaSantoraTV) March 19, 2020
While I wouldn’t dream of comparing the talent of Diana Taurasi to a second-round guard, Haley Gorecki is a bucket-getter. She makes inventive off-ball cuts that most players don’t realize are there, she can shoot from the perimeter, and her passing out of traps is already solid.
She has a nose for the boards as well, which should help Britney Griner on one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. Gorecki is also a sharp defender in the passing lanes and averaged more than two steals per game.
If she and Olivia Epoupa make the team, opponents will struggle to hold on to the ball.
To watch Nicki Ekhomu make decisions on the floor is a delight. Her poise comes from having the speed to blow by defenders while possessing a shot that was appreciated on her college team: She made a Seminoles-best 32.6 percent beyond the arc during her final season with Florida State.
Ekhomu averaged nearly five assists per game as well. In Phoenix, she would get the opportunity to learn from some of the best ball handlers to ever do it, which would help her take the next step to becoming a good pro.
In short, Phoenix could put together its backcourt of the future in one draft.
Seattle Storm (Derek)
(11) Te’a Cooper
(19) Tynice Martin
(31) Peyton Williams
Te’a Cooper can play both guard positions and provides a great defensive presence. If Sue Bird, Jordin Canada and Jewell Loyd can help her cut down on turnovers, Cooper would make a stellar backup for them.
Getting Tynice Martin at 19th overall is a steal, though a domestic battery charge in 2019 will likely affect her draft stock. With Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard and Bird healthy enough to attract attention way from Martin, she will be able to thrive in the space and in one-on-one matchups.
Peyton Williams is a bit of a gamble at 31st overall, but the two-sport star is a project whose stock might have benefited from the tournament. She’s a rebounding machine and can be effective offensively if given great opportunities. Again, the talent on Seattle’s roster makes her a great fit for depth.
Washington Mystics (Myles)
(12) Bella Alarie, Princeton
(24) Chante Stonewall, DePaul
(36) Billie Massey, Belgium
The champs did their best to run it back this season, though they did lose Kristi Toliver to free agency. With the last pick in the first round and strong roster depth, they were poised to take best-available player.
That’s Princeton’s Bella Alarie, coming off 17.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg, who topped Washington’s draft board. The 6’4″ Tiger will be close to her hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, and she played her high school ball at National Cathedral School in D.C.
Look for Coach Mike Thibault to capitalize on Alarie’s pick-and-pop ability.
In an attempt to regain some of the perimeter defense lost with Toliver gone, Washington selected Chante Stonewall to close out the second round. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year is a menace on that side: She averaged 2.2 steals per game and only had two more turnovers (73) than steals (71) on the season.
Though she shot just under 30 percent from long range, Stonewall hit 45 percent of her looks and averaged 17.4 ppg. Nonetheless, she’ll need to work on her efficiency at the next level.
With the final pick in the draft, the Mystics selected Billie Massey out of Belgium. The 20-year-old prospect averaged 15.3 ppg and 16.7 rpg in the 2019 U20 FIBA Championship. While she’s years away and raw, she would have a mentor in Belgian teammate Emma Meesseman.
If that serves to prolong the Finals MVP’s time in D.C., it’s a win for the Mystics.
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*Derek Helling and Huw Hopkins co-authored this article.
Myles Ehrlich is a TBW staff writer from Brooklyn, NY. He has been writing since childhood when it passed the time better than rolling scenery and folk CDs on family road trips. He legitimized his passion at New York University and The Writer’s Foundry MFA. His work has been published with Castings, MASH Stories, and flashfictionmagazine.com. When not writing, Myles is usually playing, watching or reading about sports. His east coast WNBA fandom resides with the New York Liberty; his west coast with the Las Vegas Aces.